Posts Tagged ‘belfast’

Setting Yourself Apart from the Crowd

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

set apart from crowd

Are you in the final stages of your degree? Wondering what step to take next? Should you go straight into a job or further your studies? I chose the latter and little over a month ago I completed a Masters in Multi-Disciplinary Design at the University of Ulster, Belfast. Hopefully some of my thoughts about it will help you make a decision.

The MA Multidisciplinary Design responds to continuing changes in contemporary design practice and challenges the perceived boundaries between the many and varied recognised art and design disciplines.

The programme seeks to establish an environment where creative, self-motivated practitioners from a diverse array of design backgrounds, with different methodologies, can experience a cross-fertilisation of ideas and approaches to the design process.

Web, fashion, print, product and textile designers (along with a variety of other creatives) come together in a challenging environment, allowing a totally original style of working to evolve.  Coming from Interactive Multimedia Design at Jordanstown, we primarily worked in an online design environment, along with around 80 other web designers.  There was little interaction with creatives from other disciplines, which left us in a world of our own.

With competition for jobs pretty high in the web sector at present, I felt it was important to set myself apart from the other IMD graduates.  I also wanted to explore other areas of creativity, while broadening my design skills.  The MA in Multi-Disciplinary Design offered me all of these and therefore seemed like the obvious choice.

masters paddy donnelly


The course runs for a year and a half (3 semesters). The first two semesters consist of 3 modules and the final semester is devoted to your Masters project. The content within each module varies, ranging from creative entrepreneurship to design thinking, giving you a wide array of topics to tickle your creative muscles.

The Work

The structure of the MA leaves your choice of research topic wide open.  While there is constant guidance and advice from the lecturers, you are pretty much able to study anything you want, which is refreshing and daunting at the same time. I chose to research viral marketing, social media and Internet culture over the year and a half, in an effort to understand the web better and create a name for myself.

The Big Word Project is one of the projects created by myself and Lee Munroe in an effort to promote ourselves and research each of our chosen subjects. The project allows you to purchase a word from our list for $1 per letter to represent your site. Your site will then represent this word in our list and when people click on it, they will be taken to your site. The site received huge publicity around the net, including being featured in WIRED magazine!

Great Points

The Masters has a ton of advantages for anybody wanting to further their education and get a step up in this economic downturn. Some of these benefits include:

  • Improved presentation skills
  • Networking opportunities
  • Increased self confidence
  • Multi-Discipline environment
  • Enhanced research skills
  • Access to experienced knowledge base
  • Advanced writing practice
  • Entrepreneurial advice
  • Expert guidance
  • Masterclasses

Not so Great Points

There aren’t that many bad things I could say about the Masters, however I should point out a few issues that affected me:

  • It’s not cheap, around £3,200
  • Not having strict guidelines can make you feel lost in the beginning
  • Can be a difficult transition from a multimedia background to a more artistic environment

I got a Job!

And what was the point in all this? To get a job of course! And, well, it worked! I started work as a Creative Strategist for Belgian company Nascom two weeks after the MA ended, and I’m loving it! You can read more about my first week at the Nascom blog.

The MA got me this job in a couple of ways. The first reason was my research into social media, which gave me the skills to join the Nascom ‘Tactics Squad’. The second reason the MA got me the job is because I met Steven Verbruggen as part of The Big Word Project and he in turn got my foot in the door with Nascom. It just shows that you should seize every opportunity and network like crazy! You never know what could happen, you could end up in Belgium!

Want to know more?

For another point of view on the Masters, check out Lee Munroe’s post. You can download some information on the Masters. Any questions you have about the MA, don’t be afraid to email me or Chris Murphy (Course Director).

Peter Jones’ Stripy Socks

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

Lee Munroe, Kyle Boyd and myself turned up at the small business and franchise show in the Kings Hall on Friday and we’d be lying if we said we were going for any other reason than to see Peter Jones :)

[Pic via]

The dragon, in his first visit to Northern Ireland, answered some questions in a seminar with that guy from UTV.  I’m kicking myself now that I didn’t ask him if had he heard of Twitter!  He definitely needs to join the Stephen Frys and Richard Bransons of the world so we can keep tabs on him.

The Questions

Here’s a summary of the questions and answers from the seminar.

What advice would you give to a budding entrepreneur?

There’s a ‘down in the dumps’ attitude from a lot of people at the minute and I feel like I’m on a soapbox sometimes. There’s a lot of inspiring people out there, don’t read newspapers or watch tv and give in to the depressing view.  And certainly dont stop spending or we’ll bring down the global economy.  Just evaluate and keep on top of who you lend money to. I lost everything at a stage.

Do you have an aquarium in your home and would you like to buy one?

Yes, the kids love it. Invent a cleaner that works though!

Growth and importance of online businesses?

Online business is the replacement for direct selling, its extremely important. Don’t everyone set up online businesses just selling products, you need to be original. No-one is really selling other people’s stuff online at the minute.

[Eh Peter, what about Amazon? Ebay? Etsy?]

How should you pitch your idea to the Dragons?

Say what your business does on the tin. Communicating your vision effectively is so important. What is it going to do? How it will make money? How it will be competitive?

How much time should you spend refining your idea?

Do your own research, get out there and ask the public if they want it.  Not enough people go beyond asking their dad would they buy their product.

Do you make your own luck?

Yes, never start a business that you aren’t passionate about. If you chase your passion, money comes. Don’t compromise your passion for love of money.

How do you remain calm in the face of adversity?

I am controlled/furious in the office.  They key is to remain in control no matter what the situation is and you will come out the other side.

Who is your greatest influence?

My 5 kids. No-one personally inspires me, but I encourage you to just be passionate about the future, look at your kids for inspiration.

Were you a child when you want to make money?

Well, at 12 I started. I set up a tennis academy by 16. At 17 I started building computers. I wasn’t that visionary, I just copied someone else’s idea, Dell. Its inspiring to watch my parents working in their 70s and have given up so much.

Levi Roots?

I love him!  [Peter sings the reggae reggae sauce song :) ] The success of his business is all down to Levi, with a little bit of help from dragons den. He’s now a multi-millionaire and its all because he was so passionate about his product and he was different/original.  You can learn a lot from his story.

If there’s a similar product, should you sell it cheaper to compete?

Its dangerous to go into a price war. Viral marketing, using the web are better tools to use to compete. Don’t go head to head, just prove in your advertising how different your product/service is and how you can do it better, subtly.

Is it real money on the tables on Dragons Den?

Nope :( James Caan and Duncan Bannatyne invest so much that they cant afford to put real money there. Ha ha.

How can you get over the fear of failure?

Put a thick black line through the word failure in the dictionary. There is nothing that is a failure, its all about feedback and using your knowledge to get to a successful goal. We should not be breeding a generation of non-tryers. If you’re not successful then you NEED to use your feedback to go on.  Life is just one long journey.

Is the first step the most important?

You have to go out there with a real passion and enthusiasm and look at why other people are not doing it right. Its my first time in NI and I love it. Go out and do it.  There’s a guy who’s been hassling me all day, pitching his idea, but at least he’s out there doing it!

What’s the role of outside professionals in setting up a business?

I sort of condemn management consultants.  There’s very little value in them unless they are as passionate about the product/business.  I support using consultants for specific needs concerning your business, but be careful.

Is there any advice you would like to add?

Everyone in this room is working for a company that was started by and entrepreneur.  Its possible so just get out there and do it.  And remember,iIts never too late to start.

Also stripy socks are in.  I always wear them and even though I get teased about them constantly, they ground me.  People will notice and remember you if you’re slightly outrageous.

Some great advice there from Peter, I am a big fan of stripy socks also so that’s step one taken care of!  Here’s also a little video of Peter looked riled, eh… not.